Tuesday, December 1, 2009

December Book of the Month: The Book Thief

The December Book of the Month
suggested by Sarah
When I took this book out on loan one of my managers at work exclaimed, "This is such a fantastic book. It's amazing. Narrated by death and just so well written. It's so good!" Then she breezed off to do something at the registers. I was assuming it was good. It was featured as a best seller for the young adult fiction and we had plenty of copies in the store that were quickly being bought.

I intentionally didn't read what Sarah thought of the book, or why she had suggested the book for me, until after I was finished reading it. I also stayed away from all comments on goodreads.com about the book. I wanted as clear of a mind when I went into reading this book as I could have so that way I would be allowed the most true feelings for the book.

Sarah's impression of the book is as follows:

It was recommended by my mother (she works at the library so always has great suggestions for when I can't find a book to read) and she sent it to me in a care package when I started school. Right away you know that the book is different in many ways, which is one reason why I suggested it to you. It is from the point of view of "Death" personified and narrating a story that is set during the Holocaust. However, it isn't scary or creepy in a way you would think Death would tell a story.

Death talks about colors and the significance of them in beautiful metaphors and is saddened by the souls he had to come and carry into the afterlife. This addition of noticing colors and beauty and not just the darkness of death, turns him into an actual humanized character so he is not just an unbiased narrator.

It is so interesting that it is narrated from an unseen, unheard onlooker that was there but wasn't really present, if that makes any sense. And although other deaths are mentioned, since he was very busy retrieving souls because it was the Holocaust, one girl's (the book thief's) story is told in full which makes up the amusing, sad, disturbing, ridiculous, eventful plot. The book is really fast read because of how it is divided into parts and its random bold notes throughout. And personally, it's nice to know that the Germans were actually speaking German, although "translated" for the audience with some German words occasionally stuck in for emphasis. I don't know why but it's annoying when stories are set in a different country but the characters speak English. In movies, I would rather have subtitles and in books I would like to know that it was translated from the original language. It seems more authentic. =]

The subject matter of this book is a little heavy, but I liked how Liesel was so in love with reading and with books, and I thought of you and thought it would be perfect and different which was the main reason I chose to suggest it.

The book is fantastic. It is amazing. Hands down one of the best books I've ever read and I completely feel that this should be considered a classic. I hope that in a hundred years people are reading this book and realizing how fantastic it is all on their own.

It's labeled as a "young adult" book but I feel it is most definitely more of an adult nature despite it's main character being that of a child. The issues at hand are something that I'm not sure a 12-year-old could completely grasp but an adult would surely appreciate.

The book is narrated by death and eloquently so. With little jabs at the human race, Death can even be funny at times but generally is overwhelmed by the sadness of taking so many bodies during the Holocaust - which is where we find this story taking place. But despite how busy Death is he does find himself drawn towards one particular life. The life of the orphan Liesel who has moved to Himmel Street after her mother is 'taken away'- most likely to a concentration camp- and her younger brother Werner dies on the train ride to her destined home.

She's frightened and upset but quickly begins to love her new father "Papa" and befriends her neighbor Rudy. At first the book follows the antics Liesel has and her growing relationship with Papa and Mama. The book begins it's tale just before World War II has begun then plunges head on into the war.

The chapters on the war itself are filled with the anxious fear, stress, worry, and heaviness that the period of time must have possessed. There are many accounts of what the Jewish people went through during that time and it's incredibly frightening. But this is the first book I've read where the prospective is that of the 'arians' of the land - the Germans who are more or less being forced to follow Hitler's lead or else face death themselves. The fear they feel as the war progresses and their families - brothers, fathers, sons - are being forced to join the German army. The parade of Jews through their town and the emotions they feel when they see the starving individuals... the punishment they receive when they try to help those people.

It was a dangerous time for any German. I feel that no one was really safe and the book highlights that. I grew to love all of the characters, even Mama who was hard as nails, and I feel that is because Leisel was the one who loved these characters. Her love shown through and brought it into myself.

The motifs of the book are outstanding and in the forefront through and through. Death is what ties all of the characters together, Death is what is seen in Nazi Germany daily, and Death is who narrates the book and also will be the one who ends your story. Literature, or the power of words, is also prominent. Hitler has a great power with words and drives people to support or fear him. Words are taught to Liesel and she learns how to read only to later on drive people to comfort during air raids.

Despite that the book is surrounded so very much with dark things... death and war... it is beautifully written and shines as an outstanding read. I was so absorbed with it that it was hard to put down. I'd read until my eyes ached (and this would be after a 9 hour shift at work) and then sleep only to rinse and repeat. As horrifying as it is fantastic... it's worth the read.


  1. Wow, I am so glad you thought so highly of it and your manager also loved it. It was rightfully on the best sellers but I feel like not enough people took notice to actually read it. I am glad that your review may get more people to read it! =]

  2. My grandmother sent me this book for Christmas 2 years ago and I loved it! I love that Death writes it and that it doesn't have a typical happy ending storyline. Rudy is my favorite! And Max with the feather hair. The bond between Max and Liesl is astounding to me. I loved this book and I hope everyone reads it!

  3. I love Rudy too! I cried when she kissed him!!!


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